On my first date with my husband Collin, I wasn't sure whether to order pasta, pizza, or steak. So he ordered all three, plus a smorgasbord of appetizers, and said "We'll just pick at everything." Three hours, two bottles of wine, and eight empty plates later, I knew I was in love. I had finally met a man who not only respected my...ahem...healthy appetite, but who could match it with his own.
Back then, despite my love of food, I was weight-conscious and very thin. While I indulged in pasta and desserts sometimes, I also exercised almost every day, and controlled my weight by skipping meals when I was busy with work. Collin was similar -- as a touring musician, he stayed slim by not eating on show days, then having fast food-fests on his days off. But as we settled into a relationship, our love for each other was rivaled only by our mutual love of breakfast burritos and steak dinners. We skipped mornings at the gym in favor of breakfast (and a different kind of "workout") in bed. But those morning sessions didn't burn enough calories to match the piles of bacon, cheddar cheese egg scrambles, and chocolate chip pancakes. And one year into our relationship, we'd gained a collective 50 pounds.
We watched our expanding proportions with a mixture of amusement and horror. When Collin could no longer button his dinner jackets, we giggled about his cool new open-jacket look. When I lost my balance and nearly fell overboard on a sailing trip in Greece, Collin's reflexes kicked in, and he saved me from falling by grabbing hold of my ample back fat. That night, we laughed over spanakopita and ouzo about how I'd given new meaning to the term "love handles".
Periodically, one or both of us would declare war on our growing bellies, and we'd go on a strict diet. We cut carbs, but found a life without bread not worth living. We tried the "Warrior Diet", and crammed so much food into our one meal-per-day that we gained weight instead of losing. We even went vegan for a while, but grew tired of all the time and energy it took to prepare our meals (not to mention our bathroom breaks... a vegan diet is nearly entirely made up of fiber!)
Then came Collin's declaration of diet independence. Late one night, during one of our short-lived weight-loss attempts, we were both sipping tea to quiet our rumbling, empty bellies. Collin stood up and said, "I've had it!" He proceeded to give a rather presidential speech about how he loves me, and I love him, and we love food, so why should we deny ourselves one of life's great pleasures? We were still wildly attracted to each other, extra weight be damned. So who were we trying to please by whittling our waists? He then drove straight to our favorite all-night Jewish deli, and returned with a feast of knishes, blintzes, pickles and corned beef. We dined at 2am and fell asleep hugging each others' full bellies.
That was about six months ago. We've been eating to our hearts' content ever since, with no plans to "get back on track." But the weight hasn't exactly been lifted from our shoulders (or thighs, as it were). I feel both horrified and liberated. I want to be completely free of "society's expectations" about my body, yet I can't help but cringe when I feel my belly bulging over the waistband of my jeans, and I try not to wave at people so I don't have to feel the jiggly underside of my arms. I see Collin struggling with the same conflict, sucking in his cute belly every time he passes a mirror.
Neither of us is fat by normal standards. But we live in Los Angeles, where nobody leaves home without their yoga mat, and a smoothie is considered a hearty meal. So out of all our friends, we're the only ones with a few extra pounds. Last week we had dinner with another couple, and watched in confused dismay as the two split a garlic chicken entrée and rationed their broccoli and carrots. Not sure whether to reveal the secret of our excess, Collin and I looked to one another in silent agreement before each ordering the hefty pasta dishes we were craving.
That night in bed, we finished the leftovers together with a full-on "Lady and the Tramp" spaghetti kiss, and tried to clear our confusion. Was it possible to be fat and happy? Had we matured beyond the self-conscious, weight-conscious, self-obsessed vanity of youth? Was it time to transition into the kind of adulthood in which a good meal provides more joy than fitting into a pair of skinny jeans? It was like being at a fork in the road; beauty on the left, a Chipotle on the right.
After much consideration, we have reluctantly decided to turn left at the fork by putting down our forks. We're going to make healthy meals at home, take trips to the gym together, and try to get in shape again. And we're going to get started... tomorrow.
I know that gaining "love chub" is no new phenomenon, and Collin and I are going through something that many couples do. Did you gain weight after the wedding? And if so, are you and your spouse okay with your matching marriage muffin-tops? I have to say, I'm excited to incorporate this new diet and lifestyle into my already amazing relationship with Collin. But now all I really want are some muffins.